I find that I’m the most successful at eating healthy throughout the day when I can start my day of with a healthy breakfast. Typically I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, and I’m not really hungry yet when I have to leave the house for work. I drive right past a dunkin donuts on my way to work, and it’s too easy for me to stop there to pick up a breakfast if I don’t already have something ready to go in the morning. So it is a lot more benefitial for my waistline (and my budget) for me to prep breakfast the night before so I have no excuse to stop for something on my way to work.
My Make-Ahead Breakfast Plan
I try to plan and prep my breakfasts over the weekend and I plan on having the same thing every morning to save on prep time and to lesson my decision fatigue. Here are a few of my favorite make-ahead breakfasts:
Individual Frittatas- I make these muffin tin frittatas a lot. I use whatever veggies I have on hand and i’ll often mix in some sliced ham, or cooked bacon. They also freeze well so I’ll double the recipe and keep them in the freezer to have for breakfast over a few weeks.
Morning Glory Muffins– These muffins have some fruits and veggies packed in, as well as whole grains. I’ve also found these to freeze well.
Yogurt with Fruit and Granola- This can’t really be eaten on the run, but if you can take your breakfast to the office this one will work! It’s a lot cheaper if you buy the larger yogurt container and just portion it out at home but you can also buy the individual yogurts.
Want a crazy easy hack for traveling with yogurt? Put it in a wide mouth mason jar but make sure to leave about 3 inches at the top. Add your granola to an empty plastic applesauce container and put it in the top of the mason jar. It fits right in! Then you can put the mason jar lid and ring on. It seals everything together and keeps your granola from getting soggy but you can still portion it in advance. Try this hack with veggies and dip as well!
Lately I’ve been having protein boxes inspired by the ones you get at Starbucks but for a FRACTION of the price. I sometimes adapt them to have for lunch as well. I try to put 2-3 boxes together at a time depending on my ingredients and whether or not they can be prepped in advance. Apples for example will brown quickly, so I slice those the night before and toss them with a little bit of lemon juice and water to minimize the browning.
Packing Your Ingredients: There are some great containers out there that are already broken up into sections like these glass containers. They work great for separating dips, peanut butter, or berries from things like eggs and veggies. These silicone muffin cups also work well to place inside dishes to separate ingredients.
Ingredient Inspiration: Here are some ideas of ingredients for your boxes, but the possibilities are virtually endless. Pick what you like and what you’ll be excited to eat.
Hard boiled eggs- made in my instant pot using this method
Whole wheat sandwich thins
My boxes for this week include a hard boiled egg, 1 oz of cheese, half of a whole wheat sandwich thin, a clementine, 1 TBSP of hummus, and some sugar snap peas. I end up eating this around 9:30-10:00 am so I don’t mind the more savory peas and hummus.
I try to fill my boxes with things that I’m excited to eat and that will provide me with fuel for my day. This box combines whole grains, proteins and natural sugars to help me feel satisfied and full, and I look forward to eating it! This helps me to say no to the temptations like donuts in the office 🙂
These boxes would also be great as snacks for kids when they get home from school, or something quick to grab as you’re walking out the door on your way to soccer practice.
What are some things that you make ahead for breakfast? What are your ideas for elements to incorporate into a breakfast/lunch protein box?
Happy New Year everyone! It’s so hard to believe we’re in a new decade!
I’m going to share a quick and easy skillet chicken recipe that comes with a thick mushroom sauce. If you’re not a mushroom fan, reduce the mushrooms to 12-14 oz. I pack 16 oz into this dish for four servings. Baby bella mushrooms are some of my favorite to cook with, but use what you have or what looks good at the grocery store. It creates a thick savory mushroom sauce that goes great over pasta, mashed potatoes, rice, or a bed of veggies. I served mine over some sauteed zucchini tonight for a healthy alternative to the base of carbs. Enjoy!
Skillet Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Start by slicing the chicken breasts horizontally so you have 2 thin cutlets per breast. You can also purchase cutlets, but I find them to be too thin, and often too small. Depending on the thickness once you slice the chicken, you may need to lightly pound the cutlets to make them thinner. I do this by placing the chicken in a zip-top bag and lightly pounding it with a rolling pin. You want your chicken to be about 1/4 in thick when you’re finished. Salt and pepper both sides of the cutlets.
Place the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour making sure to shake off any excess. Transfer to a plate. Reserve about 1 TBSP of flour for the sauce.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil and butter. I like cast iron because you can get a good sear. Make sure your pan is hot by testing the tip of the chicken. I normally dip the edge of the chicken into the pan and listen for the sizzle. When you hear the strong sizzle, then you know the pan is ready. Once your pan is hot and the butter is melted, brown your chicken for about 2 minutes per side. Cooking time varies based on your pan but you want a nice golden brown sear. You’re not cooking them through entirely at this point, so just focus on the browning. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add garlic and shallots to the pan and cook for about 30 seconds, making sure to stir so it doesn’t burn. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes. They will release their liquid, but keep cooking them until almost all the juices have cooked off. Sprinkle in about 1 TBSP of the leftover flour from the dredging step. Add chicken stock and parsley and scrape down the bottom of the pan to pick up the browned bits.
Add the chicken back into the pan. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until the chicken has cooked through. Add more stock to thin the sauce if you want. The sauce will be thick.
Serve over noodles, with rice, or over a bed of sauteed zucchini.
I served the chicken and mushrooms over sauteed zucchini. To do this I chopped the zucchini into 1/4 in chunks. I heated a pan (iron skillet again) with about 1 TBSP of olive oil and added 1 minced garlic clove and 2 TBSP of minced shallot. I cooked that for about 30 seconds then added the zucchini. Let the zucchini hang out in the pan for 1-2 minutes without stirring or disturbing it. This helps to create some nice browning. If you overfill your pan, then the zucchini won’t brown, it will steam so make sure to use a pan large enough to have an almost single layer with minimal overlap. Then I stirred them, covered the pan, and cooked them on low for about 5 minutes to finish cooking.
This is a quick dinner that I have made numerous times before. I have served it over egg noodles, with a side of rice, or with mashed potatoes. It was just as good tonight served over the zucchini, and I didn’t feel any guilt after enjoying a nice big bowl 🙂
If I’m going to roast a whole chicken, I almost always spatchcock it. This is a method of breaking down the chicken prior to cooking where you remove the backbone and flatten the chicken. I love cooking chicken this way because it cooks faster than roasting whole, and all the pieces have crispy skin.
On Thanksgiving I made the Expertly Spiced and Glazed Roast Turkey from Bon Appetit Magazine. We loved the flavor that the dry salt brine and glaze gave to the turkey, and I was excited to try it on a chicken as well.
Last night I broke down the birds and seasoned them with the dry salt brine. Then tonight I cooked them at 425 for about 70 minutes (glazing about every 15 minutes). You will have to adjust your cooking time based on the weight of your chickens. Mine were pretty hefty 🙂 They came out even juicer than the turkey! This is going to be my standard method for cooking chicken from now on.
I cooked 2 chickens so I would have enough for a few fresh meals, and enough to shred and freeze for quick meals later. I served them tonight brown rice (leftover from Monday), steamed green beans, and a pan dripping gravy. We’ll have the leftover dark meat tomorrow and Friday, and I’m going to shred and freeze the white meat for quick protein on a salad, or protein to add to enchilada filling.
If you’re looking to spatchcock a chicken, visit this link for detailed instructions on how to break down the chicken. It’s the same process for a turkey or any other bird. It’s so easy to carve as well once it’s cooked!
I find I’m most successful with cooking dinner at home when I have a plan at the beginning of the week. I know which nights we will be getting home late, which nights we’re going out with friends, and which nights I’ll have more time to prep and cook meals at home. Once I have a general idea of what my week looks like, I try to work in some meal prep early in the week. I try to find even just 1 thing that I can do in bulk to save me time. Maybe it’s cooking up a large batch of chili for multiple lunches and a stash for the freezer. Or it might be roasting up multiple trays of veggies to use over multiple meals.
One of my go-to ways to prep is by cooking up a large batch of grains to use with multiple meals. This week I cooked a large batch of brown rice to use in 3 different ways throughout the week. Here are two of my strategys for meal prep, and how I plan on using the rice:
Utilize Cook Time for Prep Work
Tonight I planned on cooking enough brown rice to have with at least 3 meals throughout the week. I cooked it in my pressure cooker, but it still took close to 40 minutes from start to finish to cook the rice. I planned a simple dinner of roasted salmon and green beans that took me less than 15 minutes to prepare. That left me with the rest of the rice cooking time to prep for later in the week! I used my time to prepare fall salads for lunch to have over the next 2 days.
Utilize a Hot Oven
I knew that I would need a hot oven to roast the salmon, so I used the hot oven to also roast some butternut squash for my lunch salads. I used my prep time to peel and cube the squash, then I tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the salmon came out of the oven, I put the squash in the oven to roast while we ate.
Brown Rice 3 Ways
My plan this week is to use the brown rice in 3 different ways:
Tonight’s dinner: A simple roasted salmon with brown rice and green beans.
Two days worth of fall salads (pictured): Arugula, kale, apples, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, goat cheese, roasted butternut squash, small scoop of brown rice, balsamic vinaigrette.
Chicken and broccoli stir fry: I will serve the stir fry over the brown rice to use of the last of it later in the week.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just think about what you’re going to be preparing for the week, and see how you can maximize your cooking and prep time to make less work for yourself! How can you incorporate meal prep into your plan this week?
I love everything involved in the bread baking process. I love how the smell of fresh bread fills the house as it’s baking. I love the feeling of kneading dough and shaping it. I love how bread baking forces me to slow down and devote time to the process. It’s a calming activity for me, and I want to make it part of my weekly routine.
I’ve been baking yeast breads for years, but more recently I have become interested in baking sourdough bread. I have tried twice before to get a sourdough starter going with no success. A few weeks ago, I committed to trying for a third time, and I was determined to get a successful starter going.
This weekend I finally had a starter that was active enough to make bread with and I am so excited to share with you the results! Keep reading to learn some basics about sourdough, how I got my starter going, and how my first sourdough loaf turned out.
What is Sourdough?
You always need some sort of leavener when baking bread. Quick breads like banana bread or zucchini bread will use baking soda and/or baking powder as the leavener. They don’t typically take very long to make since the leaveners work quickly in the oven.
Yeast breads use yeast as the leavener. Shocker, I know. There are all kinds of different commercial yeasts out there, but essentially you mix the yeast with a warm liquid (usually milk or water) and the yeast starts to feed. In simple terms, the byproduct of the yeast “eating” is a release of carbon dioxide that causes the bread to rise. Yeast bread takes a bit more time because you have to give the yeast time to do it’s thing and make the bread rise. Normally there is an initially rise that can take 1-2 hours (sometimes more), then you shape the dough and let it rise again prior to baking. You can make a yeast bread recipe from start to finish in a few hours.
So what is sourdough? Sourdough still uses yeast to make the bread rise, but it’s using wild yeast and bacteria found in the flour that are formed during fermentation. You have to have to have some sort of sourdough starter to make sourdough bread. Sourdough bread also takes longer from start to finish compared to yeast breads because you’re trying to develop that sour flavor and the wild yeast takes longer to do its thing than commercial yeasts do.
Something interesting that I learned while researching starters is that some people with gluten sensitivities have had success eating sourdough bread. This is because of the fermentation process. The wild yeast and bacteria begin to break down the proteins and carbs in the flour making it easier for our bodies to digest. I would encourage you to read this article to learn more about the health benefits of sourdough.
Make a Starter
If you want to have a sourdough starter at home, you have to commit to it. You will need to feed your starter regularly or it will die. Starting one requires at least 2 daily feedings for the first 7 ish days to get going. You can also purchase active starters online.
I followed the plan from Food 52 found here. This is what I learned:
What is feeding? Feeding is when you mix equal parts starter, flour, and water. The addition of new flour gives the existing starter more nutrients to feed on to keep it alive.
The recipe calls for stone-ground flour. I didn’t have that and I couldn’t find it in my grocery store so I just used regular all purpose flour. I wasn’t seeing a lot of activity in my starter and I think that’s because of how highly processed my flour was. I then switched to using whole wheat flour, and I had a much better result.
You will know when your starter is ready because a small dollop dropped in water will float. After about a week, I was seeing a lot of activity in my starter- it smelled boozy, had the small bubbles etc., but it was not floating. I was getting so frustrated! So I continue to feed it 2x a day for another week. Still no float. Eventually I did some more reading and realized that I was testing my starter using the float test once it was past its prime. I was testing it right before I would feed it, which was probably about 12 hours since it’s last feeding. A starter is not very active that far after a feeding, so I realized I was testing it at the wrong time. So I fed it again and waited about 4 hours and tried the float test. FINALLY, it floated. Most likely my starter had been active for at least 2 weeks prior to that, I had just been testing it at the wrong time.
I would recommend using a clear container to keep your starter in initially so you can see activity.
Making Sourdough Bread
I followed Food 52’s recipe for “Table Loaf” as my first attempt at sourdough bread. The entire process does take close to 2 days, but there is not a lot of active time. If you have a few hours on a Saturday then you can make this bread happen.
I really enjoyed creating this bread over the weekend. My hope is that I can find time to incorporate bread baking into my weekly routine. Activities like this help me to slow down, and I need more of that in my life!
Want to adventure into sourdough with me? You can do it! Share with me the pictures of what you create 🙂
Friendsgiving was wonderful this year. Great food, great friends, great conversation. I went to bed that night with a full belly and a full heart. The next morning we woke up and went to church where I heard a song that brought me to tears because it spoke so closely to my heart, and the things that are important to me. The song is titled “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen. Wow! Here are the lyrics for the chorus of the song:
I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone
Let us take on the world while we’re young and able
And bring us back together when the day is done
Later the song talks about planting a garden and letting the roots of happiness run deep. It talks about having an open door, where everyone is welcome.
I want this song to by my anthem. I want my home to have a crowded table, where everyone has a place and where we can all come together to relax and regroup after a long day.
Friendsgiving was a small way of me living out the meaning of this song. I had so much fun planning and preparing this meal and sharing it with people I care about. Below are the recipes I used, and a timeline for how I planned out the day. I hope it inspires you to crowd your table not only this Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.
Disclaimer- In the excitement of Friendsgiving, I failed to get pictures of most of the dishes. I guess you’ll just have to make everything yourself to see what it looks like 🙂
Turkey: I followed Bon Appetit’s recipe for “Expertly Spiced and Glazed Roasted Turkey“. Two nights before the meal, I broke down the turkey into various cuts: breast, leg and thigh, and wings. Then you generously sprinkle the skin with a salt brine and let it sit in your refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 24 hours but no more than 2 days. I made sure to bring the turkey out about 2.5 hours prior to cooking it so it could come to room temperature. This helps it to cook more evenly. Then there is a glaze with soy sauce and orange zest that you baste on about every 20 minutes. Since you’re baking it on a sheet pan and the turkey has been deconstructed, you’re left with all the pieces having nice crispy skin but it wasn’t dried out. Even the leftover breast meat was still juicy today when we had it for leftovers. I can’t recommend this recipe enough! I plan on trying it on chicken sometime soon.
Stuffing/Dressing: My family has never been the kind to stuff the turkey. We like to have “dressing” instead, and it usually has a cornbread base. This year I tried New York Times’ recipe for “Rich Cornbread Dressing“. The recipe calls for optional oysters, but I didn’t include those. It’s a base of half cornbread and half crusty white bread. It’s bakes up almost like a custardy bread pudding, but it’s rich in flavor and had a texture that held up well to full gravy overload. I baked mine in the morning, cooled it and refrigerated it. Then I pulled it out to bring it to room temperature when my turkey had about 30 minutes to go. Once the turkey was out, I put the dressing in the oven covered in foil at 350 to warm it.
Stock & Gravy:
Stock– Since I broke down the turkey this year rather than cooking it whole, I was left with the backbone which was still full of meat and fatty skin. I also had the neck from the turkey to utilize. I put all the leftover turkey parts in my pressure cooker with 1 onion, 1-2 TBSP pepper corns, 1 TBSP salt, and a small handful of bay leaves. I covered it with water and set it to pressure cook for 1 hour. I then let the pressure naturally release. I was left with a rich broth that was perfect for making gravy. I did this two nights before the meal, and just kept the stock in the fridge until the morning of to make my gravy. You could totally make the gravy ahead of time as well and just reheat it.
Gravy– Normally I use the pan drippings from the turkey to make gravy, but since there were a lot of strong spices in the rub and glaze of the turkey this year, I didn’t want that to overpower everything on the plate by those flavors also being in the gravy. That’s why I decided to make my own stock and use that as the base for my gravy.
I melted 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan and added 1/2 cup of flour. Add it slowly and whisk the whole time to help prevent lumps. Continue to whisk and cook this over medium until you’re left with a mixture that resembles the color of peanut butter. Congratulations, you just made a roux! A roux is typically equal parts fat (butter) and flour cooked together, and it’s the base to a lot of creamy sauces.
Once you have your roux, slowly whisk in ROOM TEMPERATURE stock. Don’t mix cold stock into your hot roux, or you risk creating more lumps. Add about 4 cups of stock to this mixture and whisk until smooth. Bring it to a boil and simmer until it’s uniform. Then you can refrigerate it and warm it on the stove when you’re closer to meal time. This will solidify in the fridge, so you might have to thin it out with more stock when you warm it on the stove. Add more or less stock to make your gravy more/less thick.
Sweet Potatoes: This recipe is less precise because my Aunt taught me how to make it, and I make it by sight/feel. But here is how I do it!
Peel and quarter your sweet potatoes (cut them like you would a potato wedge). I used 5 large potatoes and that easily fed 7 people with leftovers. Place them in a large saute pan. Add 1/2 cup of butter, 1/4 cup of Karo light corn syrup, 3/4 cup-1 cup of brown sugar and then enough water to cover the potatoes. Simmer them until they’re fork tender. You want the sauce to be thick like a syrup, so if the potatoes are done before that point just transfer them to your baking dish and continue to reduce the sauce. Transfer the potatoes and sauce to a baking dish and top with marshmallows. Broil for a few minutes until the marshmallows are toasted.
Cranberry Sauce: I have been making Ina Garten’s “Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce” recipe for a few years and I love it! It has orange juice and zest in it and I love the citrus notes that come out in this sauce. It’s a must have on my holiday table.
Rolls: Homemade rolls are always a highlight of the holiday table with my family. Some of my favorite cooking memories are shared in my Aunt Debbie’s kitchen, rolling out the bread dough and shaping it into crescents. A few of us work together to roll out the dough, brush it with butter, and shape it into crescents. Then it’s like playing tetris, trying to find a large enough work space to lay out the baking sheets full of crescents as we wait for them to rise. They’re the last thing to go in the oven right before we eat, so when the rolls go in you know it’s almost time! These rolls have become known in our family as “Debbie Rolls” and when it comes to family recipes, it’s easily in my top 5.
But! I will not be sharing that recipe with you today 🙂 I don’t often make Debbie Rolls at home on my own because they are more time consuming to roll out and shape. They also require more oven space to bake multiple sheet trays. Since I don’t have as many hands helping me in the kitchen when I host meals, I usually make a dinner roll where I can fit all of them in one baking dish. Saves me time, and oven space.
I found this recipe for Honey Butter Rolls from Sally’s Baking Addiction a few years ago and it’s become my go-to quick dinner roll. I’ve made them before and they’re a great quick roll recipe that I can bake in one pan. I bake them all in a 9×13 and the get nice and puffed but still pull apart nicely once they’re baked. They’re wonderfully soft on the inside and basically melt in your mouth. Plus you can freeze them! I get to the point where I shape them into rolls, then I place them on a baking sheet and freeze it until they’re solid. Then I put the frozen rolls in a ziplock bag. Pull out as many you need for you meal and you have fresh rolls! I pull them out the night before and place them in the baking dish in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then I bring them to room temperature about 1.5 hours prior to baking.
Mashed Potatoes: Hmmm… I boil potatoes, then mash them with butter and milk and salt and pepper to taste. 🙂 But seriously. I boil peeled potatoes in salted water with a few cloves of garlic. Once they’re fork tender, I drain them and put them in my stand mixer. I use the paddle attachment to beat the potatoes until smooth, adding butter and milk or cream to reach my desired consistency. I usually add about 1/2 cup of greek yogurt or sour cream as well to 5 lbs of potatoes. It just adds a nice tang. Make sure to salt and pepper the potatoes well. Be fancy and garnish with some chives or parsley!
My dining room table isn’t large enough to seat everyone and serve the food, so I put the food on a separate buffet table. Then I have room to decorate a table runner on my dining room table. This year I went with almost all edible decorations including chestnuts, sage, pomegranates, and mandarin oranges. I kept each place setting simple with a folded cloth napkin placed on every plate. Once the meal was finished, we started snacking on the fruit from the table. Everyone loved the pomegranates!
Two Nights Before: Dry brine the turkey and make your stock.
One Night Before: Bake cornbread, and prepare cranberry sauce.
Day Of: Follow my attached PDF for my Day-Of Thanksgiving Timeline. It’s a detailed timeline for how you can execute the recipes I listed above to serve a meal at 6 pm.
Our friends brought deserts, wine, and green beans to complete our meal. One of my friends makes a delicious cranberry pie that I think is going to have to be a permanent resident on the Friendsgiving menu.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to thank my friends and family and all of those who have shared meals at our table. Having you in our home brings us so much joy. I am thankful for my “crowded table”.
Fresh pasta with pumpkin = fall comfort food. I roasted a pumpkin earlier this week, and after enjoying the roasted seeds I was left with a decent amount of puree to use in recipes this week. I’ve been seeing a lot of recipes for pastas with pumpkin being posted lately and thought I would give it a try!
Fresh pasta really isn’t that difficult, and you only need 4 ingredients: egg, flour, salt and water. It can be a weeknight meal! Fresh pasta is so tender. Once you taste it you won’t want to go back!
Mix 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and crack in 1 egg. Lightly beat the egg with a fork, gently pulling in flour as you mix it. Add about 1.5 TBSP of water to help form a dough and knead it for a few minutes. The dough will be somewhat tough but it will come together as you roll it out. Divide the dough in half to begin rolling through your pasta machine. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin to roll the pasta to your desired thickness.
Roll it out with a rolling pin, or use a pasta machine. The first few times you roll it through the machine it might crack around the edges. Fold the strip in thirds and run it back through the machine, continuing at the thickest setting until you have a smoother sheet. By folding it in thirds and running it through again you will end up with smoother edges that roll through easier. Then roll the sheet through each of the settings, making the sheet thinner and thinner until you’ve ran it through the final setting.
You will be left with a long thin sheet of pasta. You can use a pasta cutter on a pasta machine, or just cut the pasta by hand. I like to cut it by hand because I like the more rustic looking noodles. I fold the long sheet into thirds again, making sure the sheet is lightly floured so it doesn’t stick to itself. Then I slice the sheet into my desired width of noodle. Then when you unfold the sheet you’re left with longer noodles of more consistent widths.
Fresh pasta cooks a lot faster than dried. These fettuccine noodles cook in about 2 minutes! Make sure your water is properly salted prior to boiling your noodles.
Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
Saute 1 chopped garlic clove in some olive oil over medium heat. Add about 1/3 -1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin, 1/4 tsp dried sage, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes until combined. Add 1/2 cup half and half and stir to combine.
Transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and continue to simmer over low heat for 1-2 minutes. The sauce will continue to thicken and coat the pasta. Top with fresh parmesan and enjoy!
Tonight I was cooking for 1, and I had all intentions of coming home and eating a bowl of cereal while watching a chick-flick. When I turned on the TV, a cooking show came on and they were making gnocchi… I was inspired to stretch leftovers this week into meal 3! I used some leftover mashed potatoes from night 1, and the rest of the shredded beef from night 2, to create this comforting dinner for 1. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, so my husband still gets a taste when he gets home 🙂
Make the Gnocchi
Take about 1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup of flour, 1 egg, and a pinch of salt and mix it together in a bowl until a rough dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured clean countertop or cutting board and knead until a soft dough forms. You can add a little more flour to make the dough come together, but don’t add too much or your gnocchi will be tough.
Divide the dough into 3 sections and roll each section into a log, about 3/4 in. thick. Cut into 1 in pieces, cutting on the diagonal. Gently drop the gnocchi into a small pot of salted boiling water, and boil for about 2-4 minutes until they float.
While the gnocchi boil, melt 2 TBSP of butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Once the gnocchi is cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the saute pan. Add 1/4 cup of half and half (or heavy cream if you have it) and about 2 TBSP of grated parmesan cheese. Crack some fresh pepper on top and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce coats the gnocchi. Transfer to a serving dish, top with remaining shredded beef and a little more grated parmesan. I added a little parsley and some more freshly ground black pepper.
Thoughts on Leftovers
I enjoyed this little game this week, of using my leftovers in new ways. Having a nice meal at home every night doesn’t mean you’re spending hours in the kitchen. Use what you have and be creative! Who knows what you’ll come up with, but I want to see it!
I love when a dinner serves double duty. I almost always make enough for dinner to have leftovers for lunch, but leftovers are even better when they can be adapted into a whole new recipe. This week I made a beef roast in the crockpot on the first night and served it with mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots. Then the next night I shredded the beef and mixed it with a soy ginger sauce for some asian-fusion tacos. I topped the tacos with cotija cheese, cilantro, and some spicy mayo. Here is how I did it:
Day 1- Morning
I salted and peppered the beef. Then I placed it in my slow cooker and added about 2 cups of beef stock. That’s it! Set it on low, and cook it for at least 8 hours (depending on how big your roast is). I cooked mine for 10 hours and it was about 2 lbs.
Tip- Some good cuts to use for roast are chuck roast, or bottom round roast. You will be cooking it low and slow, so the tougher (more inexpensive cuts) work great. Look for good distribution of fat within the cut of meat. This will all break down as it cooks and you will be left with a super tender roast.
Side note- I know a lot of crockpot roasts have you add the veggies in such as onions, potatoes, and carrots. Meh. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but there is nothing exciting to me about veggies lacking in texture and flavor after they’ve been cooked in the crockpot like that. I’ve come to enjoy crockpot roasts more when I cook the veg separately, so I can really develop the flavor and so they can maintain some sort of texture. Now, roasting the meat and veggies in the oven in a nice large cast iron dutch oven is a different story, but that’s a thought for another time.
The other reason I chose not to add veggies in with the meat is because I knew I would be using the beef in 2 different recipes and I didn’t want my tacos the next night to taste like potatoes.
Day 1- Evening
I prepped the sides and made the gravy. I chose to serve this with mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots.
Mashed Potatoes- When I make mashed potatoes I like to add butter, milk, and something tangy like sour cream or greek yogurt. I probably add about 1/4-1/3 cup of sour cream/yogurt to 4-5 cups of potatoes. I also throw in a few garlic cloves with the potatoes while I boil them. They soften and mash right into the potatoes adding a subtly garlic flavor.
Gravy- Once you have your potatoes on to boil, begin working on the gravy. Remove the meat to a cutting board and cover with foil to rest while you finish prepping. Ladle out about 2 cups of liquid from the crock pot and whisk in about 2 TBSP of corn starch. Whisk until no lumps remain, then slowly whisk that mixture back into the remaining juice in the crockpot. Depending on how much juice you have will determine how much cornstarch you need. Replace the lid and turn it up to high. Let this simmer while you finish prepping. Check it about 5 minutes later to see if it’s starting to thicken. If it hasn’t thickened at all, repeat the step and add more cornstarch. Thicken it to your desired consistency.
Sautéed Carrots- My friend showed me how to make these, and I love how simple and delicious they are. I used baby carrots this time, but you can use large carrots sliced into smaller pieces. Melt about 2 TBSP coconut oil to the pan and add your carrots. I cooked about 2 cups of carrots. Move them around in the pan, then put the lid on and cook them over medium until they soften. Once they’re almost there, remove the lid and let them finish cooking for 2-3 minutes. This helps them caramelize a little bit. I sprinkle in salt and some thyme. Done!
Reserve enough beef for tacos the next day and enjoy your roast dinner!
Day 2- Night
You can totally just shred the beef and serve it in taco shells with your desired toppings and you will have a great dinner. I like my shredded beef tacos with a soy ginger glaze.
Prepare the glaze (this makes enough for about 2 cups of shredded beef): Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a small saucepan and add 2 cloves of garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 2/3 cup water, 1/2 brown sugar, 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1 TBSP oyster sauce, and 2 tsp ground white pepper. Whisk together and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it begins to bubble and becomes thicker.
Add the beef: Shred the beef with your fingers or with 2 forks and add it to the sauce. Stir to coat and continue to simmer for a few minutes as the sauce continues to thicken.
Serve: I served them with cotija cheese, cilantro, pickled onions, pickled jalapeños, and a spicy mayo (mix mayo, lime juice, and sriracha to your desired consistency and heat level). I also grilled some pineapple chunks to go on the side and made these street corn croquettes. Finally, I lightly grilled the tortillas and it was time to eat!
Most of all they can save you a lot of money compared to buying peppers in the grocery store.
An organic red bell pepper is selling for 2.89 a piece right now at my local grocery store, and that’s while they’re in season! I can buy 1 seed packet for less than $2.00 and that packet will have enough seeds for me to plant peppers for the next few years. I planted 5 pepper plants this year, and in late July-August I’m harvesting about 2-3 peppers a week.
Peppers like warm weather, but I like to give the plants a head start by starting the seeds indoors. I started my seeds this year towards the end of February and planted them outside in May once the nights were warmer.
You can buy fancy seed starters, but really any container with some soil will do. You will want to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, and I like to use a spray bottle for this. I keep the seeds in a window sill and I cover the container with plastic wrap to create a little “greenhouse.” This keeps the soil warmer. You just want to make sure there isn’t a draft in the window, because if it’s too cool the seeds won’t germinate as well.
Once the seeds germinate you will need to continue to water them, and eventually you may have to transplant them into larger containers before they’re ready to go outside.
Once you plant them outside, you will probably want to stake them so the stems have some support to hold the heavy peppers. I have plenty of tomato cages, so I just use those.
The trick with peppers is patience. Some people don’t know this, but a pepper plant is similar to a tomato plant in that the fruit starts out green and matures to the red color. A green bell pepper is just an immature red bell pepper, which is why the red and colored peppers tend to cost more- they take longer to produce on the plant. The same thing happens with jalapeños as well if you leave them on the plant long enough.
My tomatoes haven’t done very well again this year which has been disappointing, but I have had a really successful pepper crop! After picking these peppers recently, I decided to make stuffed peppers. I love this recipe (linked below) from “My Nourished Home.” I adapted it by using ground beef since that’s what I had on hand. I doubled the recipe to have enough to freeze which will make dinner next week even easier!
I always think of my friend Jess when I make these stuffed peppers. She made them for me one time when I was visiting her, then I made them at home using some of the tomatoes that we had canned together. Jess shares in my loves of gardening, canning and baking, and eventually I’ll have to share about our summer flea market bake stand- but that’s a story for another time 🙂